What is the Best Hay for Guinea Pigs?

two guinea pigs eating hay

Grass hay is the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet and should form 80% of their daily diet. The best type of grass hay for adult guinea pigs is and Meadow Hay and this essential food source should ALWAYS be available to your guinea pigs at ALL times.

For baby guinea pigs and nursing mother guinea pigs, the best hay is .

Packed with fiber and vitamin C, this nutritious grass hay keeps a guinea pig’s digestive system in good order as well as keeping their teeth trim.

Table of Contents

Why is hay so important for guinea pigs?

Apart from the nutritional value, there are a couple of important reasons why hay is vital for guinea pigs. 

  • A guinea pig’s teeth are constantly growing and the hay works to wear down the teeth. If your piggies stop eating hay, their teeth will overgrow.
  • The fiber in hay is vital for the proper function of your guinea pig’s digestive system. 

If a guinea pig doesn’t have enough hay or stops eating hay it can result in serious illness.

What to look for in a good guinea pig feeding hay

Here are some things you should look for in a good feeding hay for your guinea pigs:

  • Freshness: It should have a sweet fresh smell and not be at all musty. It should have some green color to it. The green color signifies larger amounts of vitamin A and C. Guinea pigs love the . 
  • No additives: Check the ingredients of the hay to make sure it has nothing added to it. 
  • Plenty of stems: Although guinea pigs often like the flowers and tops of the hay, it is the stems that really help grind down their teeth and offer the best fiber. So make sure the hay you buy has plenty of stems. If a hay specifies the “cutting”, the is the one to opt for.
  • As little dust as possible: Dust is extremely bad for guinea pigs and can cause respiratory problems so even if it’s feeding hay as opposed to bedding, you should look at using a hay that has been dust-extracted or has the minimum amount of dust.

Hay can vary in quality from season to season so reviews are not always reliable. We would recommend going for a premium brand (more expensive but more reliable when it comes to quality) or hay that comes straight from the farm where the quality may not be so reliable but it costs a lot less and should be as good or better than some of the medium priced brands.

Green and fresh quality Timothy Hay for guinea pigs
Small Pet Select Fresh Timothy Hay

It is also interesting to know that the greener, leafier softer hay is generally higher in protein, vitamin C and calcium.  Rougher, stalky and golden hay is higher in fiber and vitamin D due to sun exposure but has less nutritional value. 

Guinea pigs need lots of vitamin C in their diet as their bodies can’t produce it which is why the greener hay is preferred.

Meadow Hay vs Timothy Hay

Guinea pigs can eat meadow hay and timothy hay, but what’s the difference between these two types of hay, and which hay is best for your guinea pigs?

Meadow Hay

Meadow Hay is made from grass that is harvested from pastures. This means it can contain a variety of grasses, plants, flower heads and seed heads. It has a better range of minerals and trace elements than single grass hays.

You don’t usually get the different cuttings with Meadow Hay as there is generally just one cutting. If you’re looking for a cheap hay, Meadow Hay tends to be less costly than Timothy Hay. However, don’t just opt for the cheapest available but check that it is good quality to make sure your guinea pigs are kept healthy.

Timothy Hay

is made from only Timothy grass and also known as meadow cat’s tail or common cat’s tail. It is made up of stem, leaf and seed head. The seed head is the tastiest part and guinea pigs seem to love these. The leaves contain lots of vitamins and minerals and the stalk is important for grinding down your guinea pig’s teeth and aiding digestion. 

American Timothy Hay is considered the best hay for guinea pigs and Small Pet Select supply excellent quality, US grown, . ​

2nd cutting Timothy Hay nutritional values
2nd Cutting Timothy Hay Nutrition Information

If you find Timothy Hay too costly, you could buy a bag of each and mix a bit of Timothy Hay in with your Meadow Hay so your guinea pigs get the benefits of both.

Compare the different hays

HayType / SourceInfo
Timothy (US)RECOMMENDED. Excellent quality, hand selected – 15% discount code:
Kaytee Timothy HayTimothyNon-GMO, grown without pesticides
Pacific Meadows 2nd Cut Timothy HayTimothy (Pacific NW)
Oxbow Organic Meadow HayMeadow (US)USDA Organic – grown in USA
Alfalfa (Pacific NW US)For young guinea pigs under 6 months or pregnant / nursing – 15% discount code:
Oxbow Alfalfa HayAlfalfaFor young guinea pigs under 6 months or pregnant / nursing

Does guinea pig hay have to be dust-free?

Because dust is a real danger to your guinea pig’s health, it’s important the hay has as little dust as possible. No hay will be 100% dust free but some are a lot dustier than others and should be avoided.

When shopping around for hay, some may not say it is dust extracted but may be hand sorted or hand selected.  The hand sorted hays are fine as the process of hand sorting eliminates most of the dust. 

Hay that is compressed when packaged can create more dust even if has been through the dust extraction process. Hay that comes straight from the farm which is packaged loosely can be just as good. Hand picked hay that is loosely packed is most likely to have the least dust but is generally more expensive. It is worth trying out the different hays to see which one you (or your guinea pigs) like the best.

Can I buy guinea pig hay in large quantities?

If you have a herd of guinea pigs and they go through hay like there is no tomorrow, you may want to consider buying your hay by the bale from a farm. This is not always possible, depending on where you live but it is worth having a look around to see if you can find a local farm that can offer good quality hay at a fair price as it can work out cheaper than buying smaller quantities from the store.

Do guinea pigs need a hay feeder?

Not all people like to use a hay feeder but the reason we recommend using a hay rack or hay manger is:

  • Feeding hay is likely to become contaminated with pee and poop when it’s on the cage floor. ​
  • Guinea pigs may burrow into hay that is on the cage floor and can end up with hay pokes, especially with rougher, long stem feeding hay.
Fleece guinea pig hay feeder
Guinea Pig Fleece Hay Bag Feeder

There are various types of hay feeders to choose from. Here are some good and safe options:

We strongly advise that you don’t use the metal hay balls. Although these are widely available, there have been many awful reports of guinea pigs getting injured or trapped in this type of hay feeder.

What do 1st, 2nd and 3rd cutting mean in timothy hay?

The numbers refer to when it was cut but, more importantly, the cutting will change the texture and content of the hay. The first cutting is a lot more fibrous and has more flower heads. The second cutting (the one we recommend for guinea pigs) has a good balance of fiber and flower heads whereas the third cutting is softer with more leaf and less stem.

What is alfalfa hay and is it good for guinea pigs?

Alfalfa Hay is what is known as a “legume hay” and is grown a lot in Australia and the US.

Legume forages are high in fiber, protein and calcium but are not a suitable regular food for adult guinea pigs unless they are pregnant or nursing mothers. You can feed it as a very occasional treat but it should definitely not be their main hay source.

Young guinea pigs or mother guinea pigs who are nursing their young need additional calcium in their diet, so can be fed to these guinea pigs.

Can I use feeding hay for bedding?

You should always put feeding hay in some kind of feeder but you can sometimes use the same hay for bedding providing the hay is soft. Coarse, stalky hay can cause hay pokes (hay getting stuck in the eye) which is painful for your guinea pig and would need medical attention.

My guinea pig is not eating hay. What should I do?

If your guinea pig refuses to eat hay there is something wrong. It could be one of a number of reasons but the first port of call is your vet. A few reasons why your guinea pig may not be eating their hay are:

  • Your guinea pig could be ill
  • They may not like the hay you’ve bought
  • The hay may be moldy
  • Overgrown teeth – if this is the case they may be unable to eat the hay which can lead to serious illness and they must get to a vet as soon as possible.

How should I store the hay?

Hay should always be stored above ground level and preferably with some airflow. It can be kept in sealed plastic to stop moisture getting to it providing the hay is of good quality. However, if the hay is lower quality and hasn’t been dried properly, sealing it in plastic will cause it to go musty and moldy. This is another good reason to ensure you only buy the better hays.

If your hay comes in a cardboard box, you can keep it in the box, providing you store it indoors where it is dry. If you do store it in an outdoor shed in its cardboard box, make sure it is well sealed, so nothing can get in, and that it is not likely to get damp.

Get a discount on Small Pet Select pellet food!

have a whole range of guinea pig products and have kindly given us a 15% discount code for you to use. This will be applied to your whole purchase and not just the hay. Use the code REFER-GPIGGLEUK and .